Got up at 7am to have some breakfast, checked out at 7.40 and waited in reception for our tour guide to pick us up. At around 8.15am Yrene (our tour guide) collected us and took us to the minibus where we collected a few more people from other hostels. By 9am we were heading out of the city via a shop to buy some coca leaves (we bought coca mints) and water for the journey as we'd be traveling over a range of 4800meters. Along the way we stopped at various points to look at llamas, alpacas and vicuna as well as some spectacular scenery of active and dormant volcanoes. We reached Chivay at lunchtime and enjoyed a buffet of local dishes some of which were delicious. After lunch we were dropped off at our hotels with a few hours free time which we spent having a wander round the village. At around 5pm we were picked up and taken to the local thermal pools for a nice relaxing dip in 38 degree waters whilst it rained with thunder and lightning
. At 6.30pm we were taken back to the hotel for a quick freshen up and collected again at 7pm for the huge drive round the corner for dinner and Pena (local music and dancing). As we were still fairly full from lunch, we had hamburgers for dinner and sat enjoying the company of our group and the music and dancing, and even participated in the fun of the dancing. At 9.30pm we were taken back to the hotel to get an early night as we had a 5am start in the morning.
Alarm went off at 5am followed by a wake up call from reception to make sure we were getting up. At 5.15am we had the usual Peruvian breakfast of bread and Jam, horrible juice and a cup of tea. At 6am Cesar (our bus driver) collected us first (so we got the front seat) and then we rounded up the rest of the group before heading off towards Colca Canyon. Along the way we stopped at Yanque to look at the church and watch the local kids dance the local traditional Pena round the village square whilst Cesar went to collect another couple staying in the lodge nearby. From here we had excellent views of the mountain range peaking up in the distance. When Cesar came back we headed off to the canyon going from paved road to dirt and going through mountain tunnels and holding our breathe wishing to see the main attraction, Condors
! After an hour or so of waiting and a few false sightings, we spotted a youngster far in the distance, then, two Condors came gliding into sight and gave us the show that we were all waiting for. They are truely mesmerising to watch, smoothly gliding in the air and catching the thermals and doing it all with ease. As soon as they'd arrived they were off again leaving us wanting more but also with memories of wow how amazing. At 10pm the rain was coming in and we headed off to another view point in the middle of the canyon hoping to see more. We didn't see any more Condors but the views of the mountains (one of which was Quehuisha now said to be the start of the Amazon, http://www.palkiewicz.com/pdf/TheAmazon.pdf) in the background and the river winding it's way through the canyon was amazing. On the way back to lunch in Chivay we stopped off at a village called Maca, (which is apparently slowly sinking due to water washing away the clay beneath it) where we tried the local Coca sour (which is horrible) and had a look round the village. There were lots of decorations around for the weekends Virgin de la Candelaria celabrations. Back at Chivay we had lunch and then we headed back towards Arequipa along the awesome (I'd love to ride my motorbike) winding mountain roads avoiding the many rock slides along the way. Once back in Arequipa we were dropped off near our hostel as the traffic was bad and checked back in, unfortunately not the room we'd reserved but it will do for one night. We then walked into the centre to get some dinner where I finally got to try Cuy (Guinea Pig) which doesn't have much taste and is a bit like the grey meat of chicken and hardly worth the effort for the amount of meat on it. We then went back to the hostel to chill out and get some sleep as it had been a very long day.